Poll puts Begich ahead by a hair in bid for re-election to US Senate

From Lisa Demer in Anchorage:

new poll out today shows that Democrat Mark Begich leads over the Republicans challenging him for U.S. Senate -- but barely.

Public Policy Polling said it surveyed 850 registered voters including 442 Republican primary voters. The group did the poll Thursday through Saturday on its own and not for any candidate, Tom Jensen, Public Policy Polling director, said in an email. Its private clients are Democrats but an analysis of its work found a slight bias toward Republicans in 2010 and 2012, he said.

The voter survey found that Begich would edge out former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan 41 percent to 37 percent, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell 43 percent to 37 percent, and 2010 GOP nominee and tea party favorite Joe Miller 45 percent to 25 percent. The polling firm also tested Begich against former Gov. Sarah Palin, and he led in that matchup, too.

In a GOP primary, Sullivan leads with 30 percent, compared to 25 percent for Treadwell and 20 percent for Miller. But voters may like Treadwell more than that indicates. A third of the voters had a positive opinion of him compared to 30 percent for Sullivan. Both Miller and Palin are unpopular among voters, the poll found.

Sullivan, who raised an impressive $1.25 million in his first quarter of campaigning, is running his first television ads, which make him look almost like he's running for president.

It's a long way to the August primary and even longer to the November general election but Begich's standing has been fairly steady since the group's last poll in July, Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling, said in a statement. "It will be a close race but so far he is hanging on."

Gov. Sean Parnell has two main challengers in his bid to become Alaska's longest serving governor: Democrat Byron Mallot and independent Republican Bill Walker. They are splitting the opposition, the same poll found. Parnell had support of 41 percent of the voters, Mallot, 25 percent and Walker trails with 16 percent, the pollsters found.

The most popular statewide elected official in Alaska? Rep. Don Young, with a 46 percent approval rating. The Republican incumbent leads Democrat Matt Moore 50 percent to 22 percent. Libertarian Jim McDermott trails.

Perhaps the most interesting element won't be released until tomorrow, in part two of the poll. The group tweeted a hint: "Lisa Murkowski approval: 59/27 with Democrats and 38/50 with Republicans."

Find Lisa Demer at 257-4390, ldemer@adn.com and on Twitter @lisa_demer.